IAN LONG is convinced Alvechurch’s hard work and togetherness on and off the pitch means they will have nothing to fear when playing Step Three football for the first time next season.
Church have been celebrating successive promotions after securing the second promotion spot in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier South.
Next term, they will join the new Midlands Step Three league alongside the likes of Tamworth, Stourbridge and Redditch United.
It is 28 years since Alvechurch played at a similar level – in the Southern Premier – in the era of Alan Smith and Sean O’Driscoll, but Long has no doubts the players and staff who have carried the club from the Midland League will relish the challenge ahead.
“Winning back-to-back promotions is a massive achievement,” said Long. “There are not many clubs at any level that can boast that. It’s a massive credit to everyone at the club. The players have been magnificent but it’s a team effort off the pitch as well.
“The coaching staff have been top drawer – Rich Colwell is a manager in his own right, Chris ‘Billy’ Walwyn is the best goalkeeping coach around, Mark Jones is so popular with the players and then there’s the Legend, Keith Rostill, who is the dog’s body!
“Behind the scenes, Steve Denny the secretary, Neil Tomlin and of course the chairman (Richard Thorndike) are first-class and Simon Redhead too, with his experience of the higher level. The success is a reward for all the hard work we put in.
“It’s exciting to think of the teams we’ll be playing next season but we don’t fear it. We’ve fared quite well against Step Three sides in the cups this season.
“There will be a couple new players I would like to bring to the club but I want to keep 90-95 per cent of the squad. There’s a real togetherness in the players, we’ve all worked for this, collectively, and we want to push on again.”
Alvechurch secured the point they needed to be guarantee promotion last Thursday when they drew 0-0 with visitors Bedworth United, who have since progressed to the play-off final against Stamford on Monday.
Church had their chances, but found Greenbacks keeper Dan Crane in excellent form as Yusifu Ceesay was denied twice and Jamie Willets hit the post with a header.
On Saturday, Loughborough Dynamo spoiled the party at Lye Meadow with a 3-2 win, despite goals for Nathan Waite and Jordan Nadat, but Alvechurch still finished three points clear of third-placed Frickley Athletic
Long has already had meetings to plan next season with Thorndike and will have further talks with the players. He indicated the four contracted players – Ash Carter, Luke Yates, Josh March and Jamie Willets – will be offered new deals, while others could also be given contracts to ensure they remain.
The season, however, is not yet finished, with Alvechurch now facing a JW Hunt Cup quarter-final at Dudley Town, pencilled in for Monday, May 14.
Holders Church were handed a bye through the last round when Wolves Casuals pulled out of Tuesday’s planned tie, while Sporting Khalsa have also withdrawn. The competition had been left with a fixture backlog, which has also meant the final will not take place at its traditional venue of Molineux – home of Championship winners Wolves.
Long says they want to defend their trophy and a mix of first-team and youngsters will be in line for the trip to West Midlands Premier side Dudley, with the winners meeting Atherstone Town.
“We won’t be pulling out – we don’t want to under-value the competition, “ said Long. “I’ve been lucky enough to win it twice with Tividale and once with Church last season. It’s a great charity competition and we respect the people who run it.”